By Ethan Nichols and Kayla Ross, World News Editor and Back Page Editor
Run. Hide. Fight. This is the only assistance that was offered to Michigan State University students by their administration as a gunman ran, hid from consequence and fought across campus, shooting eight students. This would end the lives of Alexandria Verner, Brian Fraser and Arielle Anderson. Five more students were shot. What was the university supposed to do? What would our university do? On Feb. 15, the Xavier student body received a message from the Dean of Students with these same three words – Run. Hide. Fight. Generation Z has been running, hiding and fighting for the entirety of our lives.
Sure, “Xavier proactively offers a number of resources to ensure the campus remains safe and secure.” So does Michigan State University. Most college campuses in the U.S. have their own police forces, key card entry in all residence buildings and academic buildings for late-night hours and security cameras. The Bureau of Justice Statistics last reported on this in 2012, stating that 68% of private universities with enrollment of more than 2,500 students have police departments and 92% of public universities have police departments. Our universities are doing what they can to protect us. But their protection ends when the government on all levels has made minimal and ineffective efforts to limit the circulation of guns.
Gen Z is defined as people born between the years of 1997 and 2013. At the start of our childhood, lawmakers were overwhelmingly concerned with homeland security in the fallout of Sept. 11, 2001. Our nation sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the security, peace and safety of America; the feeling of being under attack is the prologue to the Gen Z experience. Even though the beginning of our generation was marked by a mission with emphasis on homeland security, lawmakers ignored the call from inside the gates. April 20, 1999 was also a landmark event in the beginning of the trauma Gen Z has internalized. The Columbine High School shooting left 15 people dead.
Although 15 lives were lost at Columbine, their stories lived on. Particularly, the story of Rachel Scott, a 17 year old victim, was used in school education about school shootings and being kind. The program is called Rachel’s Challenge; it is still used in many schools today. This program teaches extensively about the horrors students face in a shooting and the trauma survivors and the families of victims endure in the time after. The trauma Gen Z students face has become normalized and desensitized to us. The trauma we suffer with and grew up with is so standard that it is taught about in schools. Yes, this mode of education is important to discuss and distribute to students for their safety. But it should never have been necessary in the first place. We should have been protected more fiercely than guns. We should have been protected with more tenacity than the supposed sanctity of the second amendment.
We continue to ask ourselves and our lawmakers, “How many children have to die before something changes?” Clearly, death does not bother our lawmakers. Gun violence is so much more than a tragedy. It’s a public health crisis. In 2022, gun violence surpassed all other leading causes of death for Americans under age 18. In 2023, we will have had more shootings than days of the year.
We are the school shooting generation. Our generation grew up seeing horrific acts of violence targeted at our educational institutions be broadcast on live television. Sandy Hook was supposed to be a wake-up call. That call has been ignored for ten years now. How could our elected officials do nothing when they see twenty elementary school children murdered? Or Parkland, which sparked a generation of activism and has led to countless state-level reform measures.
Now is the time for action. 97% of all Americans support expanding universal background checks. There is broad, popular support for the policies that are scientifically proven to reduce gun violence. What we lack is elected officials with the political will to do so.
This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. While Republicans openly refuse to address the gun violence epidemic, Democrats will campaign on taking action and then slow walk legislation or pass watered down measures. We must demand more. We must demand better.
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Our generation has experienced enough trauma and pain. If our elected officials won’t take action, we’ll replace them.
Enough is Enough.